Academic journal article Learning Disability Quarterly

The Impact of Effort and Strategy Use on Academic Performance: Student and Teacher Perceptions

Academic journal article Learning Disability Quarterly

The Impact of Effort and Strategy Use on Academic Performance: Student and Teacher Perceptions

Article excerpt

Abstract. This study was designed to examine academic self-perceptions in adolescents with learning disabilities as part of a two-year intervention project. The major objective was to compare students' perceptions with their teachers' judgments of their level of effort, strategy use, and academic performance in reading, writing, spelling, and math. The sample consisted of 308 students with learning disabilities, 355 average achievers, and their 57 teachers. Findings indicated that the students with learning disabilities viewed themselves as motivated, hard-working, appropriately strategic, and academically competent, thus reflecting positive academic self-concepts. Teachers' judgments were significantly more negative and they rated the overall group of students with learning disabilities as below average in their strategy use, academic performance, and organization. The most interesting finding occurred when the results were analyzed for students whose overall academic achievement was in the high-average range. Teachers rated the effort and strategy use of students with and without learning disabilities as above average, indicating that their perceptions were influenced by students' academic success and were not negatively impacted by the existence of a learning disability. In contrast, teachers judged low-achieving students with learning disabilities more negatively than their low-achieving peers without learning disabilities. Thus, teachers' perceptions of students' effort and strategy use were influenced by students' academic success and their learning disabilities did not interfere negatively with this perception. Lastly, findings indicated that hard work, in combination with efficient strategy use, can lead to success in the classroom.

Academic performance is shaped by students' understanding of their individual learning profiles, their self-awareness, their strategic knowledge, and their motivation to expend the effort and persistence needed to learn (Borkowski, Carr, Rellinger, & Pressley, 1990; Meltzer & Montague, in press; Pressley, Borkowski, Forrest-Pressley, Gaskins, & Wile, 1993; Swanson, Hoskyn, & Lee, 1999; Wong, 1991). For students with learning disabilities, the cluster of traits that includes effort, motivation and persistence is particularly critical for accessing the strategies needed to bypass their areas of weakness and to succeed academically.

Investigations of academic performance in students with learning disabilities have provided us with an improved understanding of the difficulties these students experience with strategy selection and strategy execution (Harris & Graham, 1992, 1999; Pressley, Symons, Snyder, & Cariglia-Bull, 1989; Stone & Conca, 1993; Swanson et al., 1999; Wong, 1986, 1987). Specifically, students with learning disabilities do not develop the range of strategies or the broad content knowledge that enable more successful students to approach task demands flexibly. Further, strategies acquired are not practiced to a point of automaticity and the dual demands of learning content plus strategies may result in students abandoning a particular strategy for a simpler but less effective one (Borkowski et al., 1990; Ellis, 1994). Even after students with learning disabilities have increased their knowledge of strategies, they are less able to apply this knowledge to tasks in new contexts (Wong, 1991), are less likely to use strategies spontaneously (Meltzer, 1995), and have difficulty recognizing when a strategy is ineffective and therefore should be changed (Ellis, 1994). Finally, students often do not believe that their use of more sophisticated strategies will increase their efficiency and maximize the results of their effort (Meltzer & Montague, in press). It is therefore important to investigate how strategy use, a component of the cognitive domain, interacts with effort and motivation, components of the affective domain, to mediate performance. …

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